While development is the key goal of the minors, real fans (or at least the season-ticket holders) do like to see some playoff baseball. For the first time in recent memory, there are more than one or two Nationals affiliates that could actually make the playoffs. This, we believe, is a nice byproduct of GM Mike Rizzo’s tendency to promote slowly and methodically versus the previous regime’s “pluck ’em and who cares if it [fouls] ’em” mindset behavior that ruined more than a couple of prospects.
Here’s a look at their chances…
Five or six weeks ago, this team seemed like it might be a lock to make the playoffs, buoyed by some kid pitcher, Stras-something-or-other. Since then, they’ve been in a tailspin going from first place to third place and falling to nearly 10 games back. But with a wild card, and seven games left against the two teams they’re chasing for it (Louisville and Buffalo), it’s still possible, but not very probable.
Winning eight straight will bring any team back from the dead, and Harrisburg is no exception. Though Danny Espinosa has already been promoted to AAA, an infusion of prospects from Potomac is imminent with the Arizona Fall League promotion deadline coming next week, and with Brad Peacock already a Senator, it’s likely that most of these “AFL promotions” will be batters — a weak spot for the Senators. That’s the good news. The bad news is that they’ve got no games left against Altoona and Bowie, the two teams in front of them in the Western Division, eight games against the Eastern Division’s top two teams. The Senators are 1½ games behind Bowie for 2nd place.
Full disclosure to any first-time reader: I’m a season-ticket holder to Potomac. The rest of you know I’m no Pollyanna, so here goes… This team is coming off a seven-game road trip where they did what they had to do: make hay against the younger and weaker teams in Lynchburg and Myrtle Beach. They have to do the same this week against those same two teams to have a chance before (A) they lose their best players to the aforementioned AFL promotions (B) Wilmington comes to town on August 23-25. As of this writing, Potomac leads Wilmington by 1½ games. If they can extend that lead to three or four games by the time the Blue Rocks visit, they’ll have a decent chance before a much, much harder road trip — three against Frederick, five against Salem, which has the best overall record in the Carolina League.
Mathematically alive, but at 9½ games back with 27 games to go, it’s not happening. Most of the drama will be who gets the call to backfill the promotions from Potomac to Harrisburg.
The Lake Monsters began their schedule with a bang, winning 15 of their first 20, but have since gone 12-17 over the past 29 games. Like Potomac, they only have one series left against the second-place team, Connecticut. Like Harrisburg, they still have six games against one of the league’s powerhouses. Offense does not seem to be the problem, but pitching does. Three starters (Swyneburg, Jordan, McKenzie) posted ERAs of 6.55 or worse in July, so the adjustments they make over the next three starts or so will determine both whether or not Vermont makes the playoffs, and how deep they’ll go.
At 15-24, the GCL Nationals are 10 games back with three weeks left to play. Their elimination number is nine.
The DSL Nationals should be eliminated by the end of the week, but this is mostly a function that only six teams out of 34 make the cut. The DSL Nationals have been hovering near .500 for most of the year.